Is Christmas a holiday that Christians should celebrate? Although it may seem absurd to most people, it is a crucial question for those who are committed to God’s Word. The New Testament of Scripture contains the details of Christ’s birth. The message of an angel announcing it, and praises from a host of heavenly hosts who celebrate it in Luke’s Book of Luke can be found. The Old Testament of Scripture contains prophecies concerning his birth. The holiday we call Christmas is something we can’t find anywhere in God’s Word.
Let’s start our Christmas discussion by looking at the early Church, as it is described in the New Testament. Bible-believing Christians tend to base their worship on the way the original Believers worshiped God in the first years after Jesus’ death and resurrection. They didn’t celebrate Christmas. Why? We must examine the history of the holiday, which predates Jesus’ birth to find the answer.
The history of Christmas reveals that the first recorded celebration of any type of Christmas was observed more than two hundred years after Christ’s birth. The celebration was held in December. It aimed to combine the ancient Pagan celebrations known to as Saturnalia (a Roman festival that took place every December 17th-24th, honored Saturn, the Roman god for sowing), the birth and death of Mithra (the Iranian god of righteousness, who was born on December 25th), and a Roman feast to celebrate the birth and life of the Sun (which also occurred around the same period as Saturnalia), with the idea to honor or celebrate the birth and death of Jesus.
Early Christians opposed Saturnalia celebrations because they were pagan holidays that required the exchange of gifts. It was also filled with exaggerated behavior and rampant immorality. Justinian, a Roman Emperor, created Christmas after Christianity was made the official religion in the Roman Empire. He did this by replacing Saturn worship and Sun celebrations with Jesus’ birth-day worship.
It is important to remember that Christianity was not the Roman Empire’s official religion. It was a unholy union between pagan beliefs and practices and what the early church taught. This marriage created a new religion. This was a perversion of Christianity that led to many extra-Biblical traditions and practices being accepted and honored equally with Scripture. Bible Believers rejected the Roman Empire’s creation of this world and still do so.
The Roman Empire mandated the Christmas celebration sometime after 500 A.D. This holiday was mandatory for all people. Saturnalia’s excesses were not relegated and Bible Believers at that time were frequently shocked by the way Romans celebrated the birth and death of the Savior. Additional pagan elements were added to the holiday by this point. These include many festival celebrations that were originally linked to January’s early days. This is why Christmas and New Years are so closely celebrated today.
January 1st marked the Roman New Year. Celebrations around this festival included decorating houses with candles, small trees, and green plants. Children and the poor were given gifts. These festival traditions gradually became part of the Roman Christmas celebration, so that New Years and Christmas were merged. Because the Roman Emperor Aurelian had long before declared that December 25th should be the center of all celebrations, the pagan festival of Natalis Solis Invicti (or the birth of the un-conquered Sun) should take place on this date in 274 A.D. It was a very popular festival that seemed to make it easy to transition from celebrating God’s Son to the birth of the sun.
After Germanic tribes invaded Rome and overran the empire, additional elements were added to Roman Christmas. Many of these tribes accepted the Druid or Celtic traditions and gravitated to them. The celebration of Yule, which combines Druid, German and Celtic traditions, was created. Later, elements of the Yule festival were added to the Roman Christmas celebration. Yule rituals included decorating the home with yule logs and exchanging gifts.
The pagan ritual of celebrating the births of great kings gave rise to the idea of celebrating Jesus’ birth. The birth celebrations of the Middle Eastern Kings, such as Herod, and any current Pharaoh in Egypt would have been held every year. Early Christians did not celebrate anything other than the deaths of loved martyrs and great leaders of their churches. Birth celebrations were considered pagan by them.
The idea of Santa Claus is not based solely on the lives of Saint Nicholas and other Christian saints or theologians. Odin, a Germanic god of the sky, was believed to have ridden through the skies on the back of an eight-legged horse or a cart pulled by horses and reindeer during Yule. Children would fill their boots with straw and carrots for the animals and leave food or sugar for Odin in their chimneys. Odin would accept their offer by leaving gifts or candy in their boots.
We are left to ask whether Bible-believing Christians should observe Christmas as a religious holiday. We shouldn’t. Many Biblical warnings warn against celebrating holidays, feasts, or festivals that are connected to false gods. Jeremiah chapter ten warns Israel against astrology, and the practice, among other things, of decorating trees like the heathen. Jesus told the Jews, Matthew 7:9 (KJV), “And he said unto him, Full well, ye reject God’s commandment, that you may keep your own traditions.”
The question of how involved Bible Believers need to be in Christmas celebrations is where things get complicated. This is because, although Christians are encouraged to leave the heathen and follow God (2 Corinthians 6:17), 1 Corinthians Chapter Eight tells us that we have the right to eat meat and other offerings to idols. We should not do so if it means that a weaker Christian will question our sincerity. Paul, the writer of the letters addressed to the Corinthians, is quick to remind us that gods worshipped by others are not gods. Only one true God exists for us.
Paul’s recurring theme in all his letters, and the overall message from the New Testament Bible, is that Christians are freed from the sin bondage. This freedom was purchased and paid for by Jesus Christ’s death on the cross. It is not something to be taken lightly nor celebrated. The Mosaic Law has been removed from Christians. We are part of the world and we are bound by any legal system that serves us. Chapter 13 of the Roman book tells us, for example, to pay dues, tributes, and customs fees to all those who are due. As long as we are able to obey God and follow his will, it is not impossible to be good citizens.
It is against the Bible’s teachings to celebrate Christmas or observe it. It is safe to celebrate Christmas as a national holiday in the USA, as long as it doesn’t present a poor witness about Christianity to others. It is possible to enjoy most of the public celebrations without committing any sins, whether it be secular or national.
Christians are continually under the influence of false gods. This is evident in Saturday. Saturn is the name of Saturday, the day of the week. Do we have to refuse Saturday observation? Or change the name to something we like and confuse everyone. No. However, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t go the opposite extreme and attend services in a church that doesn’t believe or teach the Bible or present a false gospel just for offering midnight services on Christmas Eve.
Remember that in the Book of Luke, chapter 2, an angel announced Jesus’ birth to shepherds who were keeping watch over their sheep at night. Luke tells us, “And suddenly, there was with the angel, a multitude of heavenly host praising God and saying, Glory, God in the highest and on earth peace and good will toward men.” An angel’s announcement triggered a heavenly celebration. This gives us some flexibility when celebrating the birth Jesus. I think that individual celebrations of the birth of Jesus in December and Christian-honoring church services are acceptable.
Money with pagan symbols is what we use. We use a calendar that names months and days after false gods. We pay taxes to governments, which will most likely use part of the funds for things Christians do not agree with. The bible tells us to pay our taxes, dues, and customs fees. While we must live in the world, we don’t have to make it our own. With all of that in mind, I wish you a Merry Christmas.